Fly Fishing in Ontario
Your resource for fishing the rivers of Southern Ontario
Table Of Contents
- 1 Fly Fishing in Ontario
- 2 Ontario Fly Fishing Seasons And Times
- 3 Fly Fishing Methods
- 4 Dry Fly Fishing
- 5 The Wet Fly Swing
- 6 Nymphing
- 7 BASIC NYMPHING AND ADVANCED NYMPHING
- 8 INDICATOR NYMPHING
- 9 HOW TO INDICATOR FISH
- 10 Streamer Fishing
- 11 Fly Fishing For Steelhead
- 12 Spey Fishing
- 13 Fly Casting
- 14 LEARN HOW TO FLY FISH IN ONTARIO
- 15 Best Fly Fishing Books
- 16 Fly Fishing Gear
- 17 Fly Rods
- 18 FLY REELS
- 19 Important Knots
- 20 Other Useful and Must Have Fly Gear
- 21 River Gear For All Methods Of Fishing
- 22 Fly Fishing Education
- 23 Top Guides In Ontario
- 24 Ontario Fly Fishing Clubs
- 25 Approved Retailers
This fly fishing in Ontario page is an all-about fly fishing guide for beginner to advanced anglers with tips and advice from Ontario’s top fishing guide.
Getting Started Fly Fishing In Ontario
Some anglers that are interested in fly fishing in Ontario might think that fly fishing is too confusing, too difficult or too expensive, but once you understand the basics it’s actually pretty easy and it’s very fun and affordable.
I have taught thousands of beginner to advanced anglers and this is what I recommend and teach them when they are out with me on the water.
Learn To Fly Fish In Ontario Faster
It’s a lot easier and faster to learn how to fly fish if you have someone that can teach you. A friend or relative that already knows about fly fishing in Ontario can be your best asset. They can give you on the river lessons that will shorten your learning curve.
Not everyone knows someone that fly fishes so a guy like me that teaches fly fishing for a living can help you not only dramatically increase your learning speed but can also save you a lot of money. What I mean by saving you money is that I can help you make the right decisions on what rods, reels, waders, lines and all the other tackle you will need and that will likely save you from buying useless stuff or the wrong stuff.
Not only that, but when you learn from a guy like me you learn the right way and not the wrong way. It’s not uncommon for me to see anglers that are learning on their own doing it all wrong and making mistakes that are preventing them from catching big trout. I have 35 years of fly fishing experience and 20 years of guiding experience so I hope the tips and advice I provide here will help you avoid mistakes that others are making or correct the mistakes you have been making for years.
I also know not everyone can afford to take lessons from a fishing guide like me so I built this website to help out those new river anglers too. I hope to continue to grow this website and add more information every year so check back regularly and don’t forget to connect with us on Instagram and on our Facebook page because I provide extra tip and advise that you may not see here.
Is Fly Fishing Productive
Fly Fishing can be one of the most productive and fun methods for catching fish on most small to mid sized rivers.
As a top river guide that guides with spinning rods, centerpin rods and who specializes in fly fishing in Ontario I know there are times when fly fishing will out-fish all other methods.
The methods and gear I discuss on this page are not just for Ontario rivers because I have fished every state surrounding the great lakes as well as rivers in BC, and other parts of the USA and the methods and gear recommended here have been effective everywhere.
When I go out with guides all around the great lakes and in BC they often use the same gear and same methods that I would use and often the only thing that changes are the type of flies they use or sometimes they may have a specific method that works best for their area.
Ontario Fly Fishing Species
When some people think of fly fishing they often think of just trout, but in Ontario our rivers have many other species that can be fished with a fly rod. We have brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, salmon and steelhead as our main river species, but anglers could also fish some rivers for bass, musky, pike, walleye and carp.
Bass is often a preferred river fish in the heat of the summer since they provide good fights and can be large and plentiful.
River Musky are also another challenging sport fish that is a blast on a fly rod and fly anglers here have a few good options for these feisty fish.
Ontario Fly Fishing Seasons And Times
When is the best time to fly fish in Ontario?
Ontario fly and river anglers have the ability to fly fish and river fish in Ontario 12 months of the year.
Ontario fly anglers have different seasons and different prime times for different species.
Even though most rivers would be closed for the season or would be frozen solid throughout January and February, some die hard anglers can usually find somewhere to fish thanks to extended open season regulations and open water on rivers that may not freeze up.
Even in the coldest months big rivers like the Niagara, the Saugeen and or Maitland river can often have open water where anglers can fly fish for steelhead.
Although we have a long 7 month closed season on our rivers for trout there are extended fall fishing regulations for salmon, trout and steelhead on some rivers.
Summer Fly Fishing In Ontario
Where can you fly fish in Ontario during the the summer?
Although the lower sections of many river will get to warm for trout, some anglers know that fishing way up the river in the head waters areas the river water temps can stay cold all day or at least be cold overnight and early in the morning.
I recommend buy a good stream thermometer and test the waters to make sure you are not fishing water that is to warm and to stressful for trout. For brown trout and rainbow trout I recommend not fishing in water warmer than 68f/20celsius.
For brook trout it’s wise not to fish in water warmer that 65f / 18celsuis.
Not only do the fish often not feed when the water is to warm but fighting trout in water that is to warm can be stressful on the fish and can kill it.
I guide all summer and sometimes the best fishing and the biggest trout my clients catch are in July and August even on the hottest days.
Anglers fly fishing in Ontario during the summer can also fish smaller colder creeks or fish for warm water species like bass, pike, musky and carp.
Small Creek Fishing In Ontario
Another good idea for fly fishing in the summer is to search out the small tributary creeks that flow into the bigger trout rivers.These smaller creeks can sometimes be ice cold and full of hungry trout.
The hard part is how bushy they can be making it more difficult to fish. With smaller 2 to 4 weight rods and light tackle the fishing can be great, you just need to plan you cast more carefully so you’re not constantly stuck in the trees or grass.
Fly Fishing In Ontario For Warm Water Species
Fly fishing in Ontario during the summer can be excellent if you switch gear from trout, steelhead and salmon and you start targeting warm water species.
Fly fishing for small-mouth bass in the rivers can be tons of fun with large bass hitting flies below the surface and on the surface. You can also fish for large-mouth bass in ponds and lakes and for pike, musky and carp in both rivers and lakes.
Fly Fishing In Ontario In The Spring
Some of the best steelhead starts when the ice on the rivers starts breaking up and the snow starts melting. This can be a great time to start fly fishing in some of the year round open sections of rivers.
The official trout season in Ontario opens on the 4th Saturday in April and the fishing for both steelhead and trout can be great for a few weeks. Once the steelhead leave the rivers fly fishing in Ontario means primarily resident trout like brook trout and brown trout.
Fly Fishing In Ontario In The Fall
Early fall can be good for resident trout. The brown trout and brook trout have been fattening up all summer and are starting to take on their fall spawning colors. The water is also starting to get cooler and more suitable for fishing.
The official trout season ends with the last day in September and as of October first most anglers can fly fish extended fall and year round open sections for salmon and steelhead.
Fly Fishing In Ontario For Salmon In The Fall
Fly fishing for Ontario river salmon can start as early as August on some rivers but the runs are small and sporadic and the water temperatures are not great for fishing these big fish. The big runs of salmon start in early to mid-September. For more info on fishing for Ontario salmon check out our salmon page.
Fly Fishing Methods
The 5 Methods of Fly Fishing: There are 5 methods used when fly fishing in Ontario for brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and some of these methods work for other species like steelhead and salmon.These methods are:
- Dry Fly Fishing
- Wet Fly Fishing
- Streamer Fishing
- Spey Fishing
With each method there can be multiple variations which might include the weight or size of the set-up, the types of flies used or even how you present your fly.
The variation you use may be due to the size of the river, the size of the fish, The time of the year or the water temperatures or even just different feeding habits from one river to the next
There are so many different variations on each method that I can’t cover all that on one page so I will have an in-depth page for each method coming soon.
Dry Fly Fishing
Dry Fly Fishing: Dry Fly fishing in Ontario is probably the most fun you can have with a fly rod and it’s the preferred method of many anglers. You can also fish bass, pan-fish, pike and musky a dry fly.
Dry fly fishing basically means you’re presenting a floating fly pattern on the waters surface to a trout that may be feeding on bugs that are floating on the surface or to entice a trout to come up to the surface to grab your fly. Check out this basic How to Dry Fly Fish Video for a better idea.
During the warmer months when the bugs are active, some trout will feed on the surface.
Experts say and I agree that surface insects are generally only about 5% to 10% of a trout’s diet so getting lucky and being on the river when the trout are feeding on the surface isn’t always possible.
In Ontario dry fly fishing usually starts around the first week in May and progressively gets better later in May and in June as the waters warm up.
Trout don’t feed as well on the surface when the water is very cold or getting colder but as the water warms they become more active and are more likely to rise up for a fly.
Many different insect species hatch during May and June so your chances are good but as the season progresses there are less and less bug hatches.
Using a good hatch chart can help you time the hatches better, check out this Ontario Hatch Chart for more details.
WHAT IS A HATCH
For my readers that don’t know what a hatch is, a hatch is a time when the river insects become active and are either emerging from the bottom and moving to the surface to eventually morph from Nymph to a flying adult.
The other reason for a hatch is when the mature adults are dropping to the waters surface to drop there eggs into the water.
The basic life cycle is egg, nymph, adult dry fly. The hatches are based on time of year and water temps and can be very predictable.
I’ve often told clients in early May that the hatch for the Hendrickson Mayfly will be at 2pm and that when the fishing will get really good and I’m usually right.
Dry fly fishing can either be done using a dead drift method or with a twitching or skittering type of method that imparts a bit of action to the dry fly.
A dead drift means the fly is drifting naturally with the surface current and is not being puled in an unnatural way. The dead drift method is most likely going to produce the biggest fish but not necessarily the most fish.
With the dead drift method you cast your fly just up stream and about 3 to 5 feet in front a fish that you’ve seen rising. (trout and steelhead mostly face up river and into the current).
If done right it will drift naturally into the fishes strike zone without dragging or being pulled by the current or the leader line and hopefully the fish will take the fly. Be careful not to cast your fly line or float your fly line and leader over the fish as this could spook the fish and stop it from feeding.
This takes skill in both the fly cast and the presentation because if you make a mistake it can stop the fish from feeding.
BIG FISH FEEDING HABITS
Larger fish will often move into the best feeding lanes and wait for the insects to drift over their head and then rise up and eat them. As a fly angler we want to replicate this with our own flies.
Often the bigger the natural insects are and the more abundant they are the more it will entice a big fish to come to the surface and that will improve your chances.
Big insects can mean big trout and for many guys this is the best time to be dry fly fishing.
Even big steelhead will sometimes rise up for dry flies under the right conditions which usually occur in late spring and early summer if the steelhead are still in the river.
GETTING THE DRIFT RIGHT
Brown trout are more likely to refuse a fly if the presentation isn’t perfect or be spooked by a mistake, but brook trout and rainbows are a little more forgiving and are better for beginners to learn on.
Drag can be a dry fly fisherman’s worst enemy so it’s important to learn to get a drag free drift or the dead drift. Drag happens when the current pulls the line which then pulls the fly making it move in a direction or at a speed that is not natural.
Any pulling by the current of the fly line close to the fish can indicate danger to the fish and prevent the fish from eating the fly and in some cases stop the fish from eating anything for a while.
DRY FLY ACTION
The other common method of dry fly fishing is the skittering or twitching method which is used in faster waters and for smaller aggressive trout. With this method you use a short tight line and with a light twitching or bouncing of the rod tip you impart action to the fly trying to make it skitter, bounce and twitch it’s way across the current hopefully enticing a fish to hit the fly.
With this method you’re trying to imitate a real insect that has dried it’s wings and is trying get off the surface as it’s learning to fly or as the wind blows it across or down the river.
This method often gets fast aggressive hits from smaller fish since it’s a faster moving fly an they have to move fast to grab it, and that makes this an exciting and very fun way to fish.
When I teach kids or even fish with my own kids this is the method that I usually use. The video link here is a good description of dry fly fishing. Watch Dry Fly Video.
Best Dry Flies For Ontario Trout
Trying to pick the best dry flies for Ontario trout is difficult due to the abundance of different aquatic flies on all the different rivers.
What flies should I use?
When I teach new anglers I often tell them not too get overwhelmed or discouraged when it come to choosing the right flies.
I tell them when you arrive at the river look at what flies are in the air and what flies you see on the water and then try to match the size, shape and color to what is in your box. If you don’t have an exact match just find something close.
Back eddies or slow sections along the river banks will often collect some insects and it can be a good place to see what’s hatching.
A good Ontario hatch chart is good to look at before you go so you have a decent idea of what you might expect for that time of year. The buy some of the flies on the chart before you hit the river.
This are common dry flies that I would use often.
These are just generic example of dry flies but tying your own flies are getting custom flies tied means better quality and a better match to the real thing. One of the best local Ontario places to get flies if ReelFlies.ca. I also highly recommend the local fly shops because the primarily sell flies fro our local rivers and you can get some great advice on what is happening on the rivers. Check out Drift Outfitters in Toronto and Grand River Outfitters
A Good Dry Fly Assortment For Ontario Trout
A Good Dry Fly Assortment For Ontario Trout
A Good Dry Fly Assortment For Ontario Trout
The Wet Fly Swing
The Wet Fly Swing: Wet fly fishing is not as common as dry fly or nymphing although under the right conditions it can be extremely effective and fun for trout and steelhead.
Anglers will cast their sinking wet fly on a 45 degree angle down river and maintains a tight line as the fly swings across the pool from the far side through the run or pool to directly below the angler or until it’s out of the strike zone.
Once the swing is complete the angler either moves down a foot or 2 or adds a foot of line and then repeats the process. This methods present the fly to a lot of fish but is often most productive for smaller or very aggressive fish.
The take or hit or “yank” as some call it is often a fast hard pull due to the tight line from the rod tip to the fly and this yank is part of the appeal to this method.
Any single hand fly rod in the 7 to 9 foot range and in the 3 to 6 weight size would be good for this technique. The fly lines used could be a floating or sinking line with a standard leader.
Some anglers may even choose a slow sink tip fly line or sinking leader like Airflo’s Poly Leader to help them keep the fly down and in the strike zone.
Nymphing for Trout: Nymphing for trout and steelhead is my specialty and for good reason. If done right it’s likely the most productive way to catch trout and steelhead in a river.
Nymphing is when you use flies that imitate larval or underwater stages of insects, we call them nymphs, or nymphing can just be sunken food sources like a worm or fish eggs or a sunken beetle. The best thing about nymphing is that it can be done 12 months a year and you can nymph for trout, steelhead, bass and salmon.
One of the reason Nymphing is so productive is because trout feed below the surface over 90% of the time so it just makes sense to give them what they are used to.
Advanced Nymph fishing can be very technical with many variations for all the different situations and water types that anglers face. Good nymph anglers will often out-produce all other fly fishing methods and an expert nymph angler will have far more skills than expert anglers using other fly fishing methods.
Best Nymphs For Ontario Trout
What are the best nymphs for Ontario Trout?
I recommend having a few attractor nymphs and a few imitation nymphs in various sizes. Most of the nymphs I use from trout are size 14 to 18 and for steelhead I will use a size 8 to 12. If
I’ve said this many times that if I had to choose 2 flies for all my trout fishing it would be a Pheasant tail nymph which resembles the many Mayfly and Stoneflies found in our rivers and a San Juan Worm.
A Good Nymph Assortment For Ontario Trout
A Good Nymph Assortment For Ontario Trout
A Good Nymph Assortment For Ontario Trout
A Good Nymph Assortment For Ontario Trout
DO NOT LOOK UNDER ROCKS. I’ve said this some many times that looking under the rocks to determine what the trout are eating is useless and bad advise.
You may lift up one rock and see a small mayfly or caddis larva but unless you are an entomoligsist ( person that studies bugs) you won’t know if that bug that you see is going to hatch today or next month.
Looking under rocks is fun and good for trying to see all the bugs in that river but it’s a poor indication of what the fish are eating that day or at that time.
You are better off getting your self a seine to see what if flowing in the water, because that’s what the fish will be eating.
BASIC NYMPHING AND ADVANCED NYMPHING
This webpage covers the most common basic nymphing methods that you’ll see the majority of anglers use but don’t worry because these basic methods can be very effective in many river situations if they are done correctly.
To become an expert nymph angler you should realize that there are over seven different variations or styles of nymphing with some styles being much more productive then others, but of course that depends on the situation. It’s not uncommon for me as a guide to meet anglers on the river that have only caught a few trout while my clients have caught over 2o.
Using the right method at the right time means more trout and steelhead. The Advanced Nymphing guide trips that are offered by me at A Perfect Drift Guide Company covers the most productive methods that I know of and the most productive nymph flies for our Ontario trout.
Each method of nymphing has it’s time and place and can be deadly in the right situations however 90% of anglers on the rivers in Ontario and many rivers in north America only use 1 or 2 of these methods and this drastically reduces their catch rate and they may not even know it.
To learn how to become a more successful nymph angler and to increase your catch rate it is recommended to do as much research on nymphing as possible or take a guided trip or a nymphing course which teaches these methods.
Indicator Nymphing is the most common style of nymphing in Ontario and likely in all of North America, with traditional high stick nymphing being the second most common method.
An indicator is basically a bobber which an angler uses to suspend the fly from or it can be used just to help the angler determine if their fly is being eaten by a fish or is hung up on bottom. Done right it can be an effective tool, done poorly and you will miss fish.
MORE THAN JUST STRIKE DETECTION
As a guide who has guided thousands of new and intermediate anglers I have seen first hand common mistakes indicator angler make I the reasons why anglers don’t catch many fish.
I’d bet that 90% of anglers don’t indicator fish as effectively as they should and that they primarily use the indicator for just strike detection. Strike detection is what an indicator is designed for, but it can be a lot more than that, and it’s the extra things that an indicator can do that make’s it so much more effective for me and my clients. If you don’t understand these extra things and don’t use an indicator effectively YOU ARE missing fish! Unfortunately, part of the reason anglers only use an indicator as strike detection and nothing else is because they don’t know there’s more to it. Nobody ever tells them about the other important benefits of an indicator so they don’t seek out more advanced methods.Indicators are far from perfect! An indicator can pull you fly to fast and you can have slack line under the water between your fly and the indicator making strike detection nearly impossible.
An advanced nymph angler will use the indicator to:
- determine depth and get in the strike zone.
- use it to control fly speed so you’re fly is moving at a more natural pace.
- use it to determine fly and leader location. There are certain places you DO NOT want your fly to be during a drift.
- determine if there is any drag. Drag sucks!
- and lastly use it for detecting fish strikes.
I will catch over 70% more trout and steelhead than 90% of all fly anglers and simply because I fully understand and use these added benefits of an indicator. I have had many, many days on the water with 2 clients of equal skill and one angler catches 10 fish while the other catches 1 or none. After seeing this over and over again, I realized that using an indicator an all it’s added benefits is critical to success.
HOW TO INDICATOR FISH
When Indicator fishing the goal is to flip the line and indicator up from the angler on about a 45 degree angle and out towards the strike zone.
Once the indicator is flipped out the angler will mend the line appropriately allowing the indicator and fly to get a drag free drift until the line is at a 45 degree angler down from the angler or out of the strike zone and then repeat the process moving the fly around throughout the pool to cover more water.
The angler watches the indicator drift through the pool and if and when the indicator stops or pulls under the angler sets the hook and hopefully hooks a fish and not the bottom. Although the indicator is used to detect a strike many strikes from trout are missed due to slack in the line or a slow hook set.
I always recommend setting the hook fast and setting on everything even if you think it might be a rock.
Some of the more advanced nymphing methods are much better at detecting strikes and therefore anglers miss less fish. Researching and practicing other more advance nymphing methods should help you catch more fish and any situation.
THE INDICATOR SET-UP
The Indicator Nymph Set-up – The nymph set-up is usually a 9 to 11 foot leader with an adjustable indicator that is set at 1.5 to 2 times the waters depth from the fly to the indicator. About 12″ to 24″ up from the fly is a small split shot or 2. In some cases where permitted anglers will often have a 2nd fly 12 to 18 inches below the first fly. At this time In Ontario on almost all rivers anglers are permitted to use up to 3 separate flies. Check out the video on setting up a typical indicator rig.
Recommended Nymphing Gear– The recommended gear for trout nymphing is a 10 to 11 foot rod in the 2 to 4 weight size, a weight forward or double taper floating line is sufficient and 9 to 12′ tapered leader and fluorocarbon tippet in the 3lb to 6 pound size is best. A shorter rod of 9 feet with work to but a longer rod often helps with flipping out the indicator, weights and flies and makes mending and line management easier. My Hardy Zenith 10 foot 4 wt is my favorite nymphing rod for trout but the Greys 11 foot 3 weight rod is also one of the best nymphing rods that I have used. Watch the Nymph Rod and Reel Video here
Euro Nymphing and Competition Nymphing: Many years ago I was introduced to some competition nymphing methods that greatly increased my catch rates and opened my eyes to the many different methods available to anglers. These methods were also know to some as European Nymphing methods with the most common and publicized method known as Czech Nymphing. For the last 12 years I’ve been studying these methods, using them almost exclusively and continue my training with some of the best anglers in the world. I recommend anglers interested in becoming much better at nymphing look into these methods which if learned can and will produce more and bigger trout and steelhead. Check out this video with a friend and fellow guide George Daniel. I have fished and trained with George and he is by far one of the best I’ve seen and this video is the best free video on Euro Nymphing. The methods he uses are very similar to what I use here in Ontario. For more information and for lessons on Euro and Competition Nymphing go to www.aperfectdrift.com .
Streamer Fishing – Streamer fishing can be productive and at times may produce the largest brook trout and brown trout in the river.
There are multiple ways to use a streamer but the most common method is to cast a streamer across and slightly down river and retrieve the streamer fly by stripping in the line with short steady pulls until the line is out of the target zone or you fully retrieve the line.
Check out this Streamer Fishing Video. I teach advanced streamer fishing and multiple streamer methods that can greatly improve your success. Consider a lesson or guide trip with A Perfect Drift Guide Company.
Some favorite basic streamer streamer patterns are the Muddler Minnow, the Clouser Minnow, the Woolly Bugger or the Mickey Finn but there are so many more available.
Fly Fishing For Steelhead
Fly Fishing for steelhead – Many of the same methods used for trout fishing are also used to fish for steelhead. Nymphing for steelhead requires a heavier outfit due to the larger size of fish and the bigger more open rivers. For an average size steelhead river I recommend a 7 weight 10 or 11 foot rod for the best line control and fighting ability and the longer rod also provides better tippet protection by acting like a large shock absorber.
On very large rivers like the Niagara, lower Saugeen, the Maitland and maybe the lower Grand rivers an 8 weight rod would be fine and might be more suitable for casting longer lines in windy conditions. A 7wt rod should also have enough backbone to handle even very large salmon but many anglers prefer an 8 or 9 weight rod for salmon.
A standard weight forward line, some indicators, split shots and a variety of flies is also recommended. Some anglers and guides are also starting to use Euro nymphing methods with good success.
For more information check out this Fly Fishing for Steelhead page
NYMPHING FOR STEELHEAD
Nymphing is not the only method of fly fishing for Ontario steelhead anymore. Some anglers swing flies using single or double hand Spey rods on the bigger rivers.
Some anglers will also throw and retrieve streamers in the same way they do for brown trout. However rare, there are even some anglers in late spring and early fall getting steelhead on dry flies, either dead drifting them while matching the hatch or skating them across the surface and waiting for those aggressive takes.
Check out the Spey Fishing For Steelhead page for more information or consider one of the local guides that do guided Spey trips. In Ontario it’s also legal on many rivers (except special regulation sections) to fish with multiple flies, up to 3 at a time and it’s not uncommon to see anglers using 2 or 3 different flies below an indicator.
This picture is the head guide and owner of A Perfect Drift Guide Company with 1 of 4 caught while swinging flies for steelhead in early April.
When the steelhead come in they can be very aggressive and chase down and hit properly swung flies. Heavier tippets of over 10lbs are required to absorb the shock of these hard hitting fish.
Spey fishing for steelhead in Ontario is much more popular then ever.
Fly Casting : Fly casting might look hard, but it’s not, it’s easy once you understand it, and it’s fun. However, learning on your own often means you may be practicing some less effective and incorrect methods.
Without good casting you can’t get your fly out to the spot where the fish is, so it’s important to have an effective and accurate cast or you will struggle to catch fish.
Many new anglers will make 10 to 15 casts before they are able to place their fly in the exact spot that would make a fish come up for it. Learning how to cast properly and practicing will help you catch more fish.
If you ever want to learn how to become a better caster like the guy in the picture, he is a student of Metcalfe School of Fly Casting.
Mike is the owner and is a certified casting instructor and I highly recommend them for learning how to cast and have recommended them to my clients for guide trips when I’m unavailable to guide them.
LEARN HOW TO FLY FISH IN ONTARIO
Learn to Fly Fish – There are a number of good ways to learn how to fly fish in Ontario.
Websites like this one along with books, videos and magazines are all ways to help you learn how to fly fish. Of course you still need to put the time on the water and practice.
If you want to learn how to fly fish faster consider hiring a guide or taking a lesson. Some fly fishing schools teach you on a pond or lake and I only recommend them if you plan on just fishing ponds and lakes. If you want to primarily fish rivers, then stick to learning from someone that specializes in fly fishing on rivers like A Perfect Drift Guide Company who is recognized as one of the premier guide services in Ontario. Of course there are other good guides out there to.
There are other recommended options for learning how to fly fish like finding an experienced fly fishing partner that is willing to teach you. If you don’t know anyone you may fish someone at a local fly fishing club which not only is good for meeting people but are worth joining for their events and seminars from guides like me.
I’ve done many presentations on many topics for Fly fishing clubs and have met a lot of great guys at these clubs. Below are some clubs that might work for you.
Most reels are reversible but what hand should you be reeling with?
I have taught thousands of anglers how to cast with bait-casting reels, centerpin reels, spinning reels and fly reels. I’ve seen far to many anglers show up with the reel set up for the wrong hand, and unfortunately it’s often because that’s what they were told they should do by some guy in the tackle store. This drives me crazy…
The simple rule is; if you are right handed you reel with your left hand, and if you are left handed you reel with your right hand.
This is the way it should be for all methods of fishing. Why? It’s simple.
You’re stronger, faster and most coordinated hand is the one that you want to cast with, work the rod and the bait with or manage the line with, and don’t forget set the hook with and then fight the fish with.
You’re other hand, which I often call the dumb hand, just needs to know how to reel.
It makes no sense for your bad hand to be doing all that important stuff and your good hand to be just reeling.
It’s hard enough learning how to fly cast with your good hand, imagine trying to do it with your not so good hand?
Some guys say “it’s OK, I just switch hands”, bad idea guys! I’ve seen many big fish lost with guys switching hands and fighting fish with their left hand. Unless you’ve already been doing it for many, many years and you’re good at it now, it’s better to learn how to do it properly.
Best Fly Fishing Books
Fly Fishing Gear
The thousands of anglers that I have guided will tell you I’m a pretty easy going and honest guy and that I truly enjoy teaching and helping other anglers out. It’s part of what has made me the top guide in my area.
So, this is where I give you my disclaimer and tell you I might make money on the links to the products and services I recommend. Let me assure you that I will NEVER recommend a crappy product just so I can make some money.
There are some products and links on this website that I won’t make a cent on but I recommend them anyways because there isn’t a better product that I’m aware of. The small amount of money that I might make through those likes helps keep this website running for years to come.
Recommended Gear for Fly Fishing In Ontario – There is a lot of gear that anglers use when fly fishing and a lot of different opinions of what’s the best. Anglers are always asking me what I use or what I recommend or what should they buy to get them started the right way.
All the gear I recommend on this website would be the same gear I would recommend in a face to face conversation with my best clients, or best friend.
All the gear on this page is gear that has been used by myself, my guide friends and regular anglers that I know and it’s has been put through real time testing over many days on the water. It’s also gear that I have researched before I recommend it.
Reputable Brands and Retailers – SH!t Happens sometimes. I’ve seen $700.00 rods snap in half the first day and I’ve seen $500.00 waders leak right out of the box. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad product or a bad brand, sometimes there’s a defect in the material. What matters is that the company deal with this problem in the most professional and easy way for the customer. These are the companies I prefer to deal with.
I get a lot of my gear direct from the manufactures because I’m on their guide programs or their pro-staff programs. As a top guide I could probably get on any companies guide program or pro staff programs but I’m very picky with the products and companies I choose to work with.
I have turned down free product and pro staff deals from some big and small companies because I didn’t like their products or because they had poor customers service. The last thing I’d want to do is have one of my clients go buy a product that breaks and then it’s a nightmare to get that product fixed or replaced. That’s why I recommend some products or brands and not others.
I do still at times buy from retailers and treat them the same way I do with the brands. The retailers I recommend are reputable places like Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, Fish USA, and some other local retailers that I know and trust. Every product that I have listed has a link for more information or so you can buy the product from a reputable retailer.
Some prices may change, some products might be on sale now, and some links might not work over time, so just google search the product if the link doesn’t work.
Rods – a good fly rod can cost you anywhere from $100 to over $1000 dollars. For the average angler that thinks they will likely keep at it I recommend rods in the $150 to $400.00 dollar range. A rod in this price range will be good enough for just about any river trout fishing in Ontario and chances are, once you get up to those $400 dollar rods the average person wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a $400 dollar rod and a $1000.00 dollar rod.
In fact I’ve had clients try my $200 dollar rod and then try my $700 dollar rod and they couldn’t tell me which one was the more expensive rod. A $1000 dollar rod might be a little nicer to fish with, or be slightly lighter or have a nicer finish but I promise you this, a $1000 rod won’t catch more fish than a $200 rod in the right hands.
It’s not the rod, it’s the skill of the guy using it. That’s why I used to guide with rods that I sold in my tackle store for $120.00 and why sometimes I’d grabbed one of my pre-rigged and ready to go $120.00 rods over my $500 rod that needed to be set up. Some the cheaper rods are so good that there’s very little difference from a rod 2 to 3 times more expensive.
I learned this fact over 25 years ago when I would stand on the river with my $250.00 rod and reel combo and listen to some guy bragging to his buddy about the $1000.00 rod and reel combo he just bought , and I’d still out fish him 10 to 1. That’s one of the reason why I’ve never wanted to buy $800 dollar rods.
MIDDLE OF THE LINE RODS
I’ve always been a fan of middle of the line products and would rather spend my money on a trip to some river I haven’t fished before or hire a guide with that extra $500 I saved by buying a $300.00 rod instead of an $800 dollar rod.
Think of it this way, 1 new anglers goes out and spends $1500.00 on a fancy rod and reel set-up and another new angler goes out and spends $300.00 on a rod and reel and spends $1200 dollars to hire the best guide in his area for 3 guided lessons. Who do you think is going to catch more fish just about every single day on the water for the rest of their lives? It won’t be the $1500 rod and reel guy!
With that said, just don’t go too cheap either. Some of the rods under $100.00 can be bulky, heavy, don’t cast well and are so cheaply made that it may make it harder to learn how to cast or use and that takes away from the enjoyment of the sport.
FLY ROD SIZE
Fly rods should be sized appropriately for the type of fishing you want to do. Fly rods have a rating system and for example a typical rod for trout would be a 4 or 5 weight rod and a rod for steelhead might be a 7 or 8 weight rod.
The lower the number the lighter the rod. You wouldn’t want to use a 9 weight rod designed to catch large salmon or musky when going fishing for 6 inch brook trout, so matching the rod to the fish or the type of water you want to fish most often will make your fishing experience much better.
Make sure you get the right rod for the job.
Shorter rods of 6 to 8 feet may be best suited for small creeks and areas that are very wooded like in the picture. Shorter rods are better walking through tight brush and for casting in tight areas. They may also be better suited if the average size fish are smaller like you may see with brook trout. That’s not to say you couldn’t land a big 5 pound brown trout with it.
Shorter rods in the 8 to 8.5 foot range may also be preferred by dry fly anglers who cast a lot more than a nymph angler would.
Fly Rod Size Chart - Best Rod For Your Needs
Scroll Left Or Right For More Details
Best Rod Lenght
Type Of Water
1 to 2 weight
6 to 8 foot
Small trout, panfish -
Best for dry fly fishing, wet fly fishing, and high stick nymphing
Small dry flies, nymphs and wet Flies
Best for small shallow creeks 3 to 15 feet wide
8 to 8.5 foot
Small Trout, panfish
Best for dry fly fishing, wet fly fishing, and high stick nymphing
Small dry flies, Nymphs and Wet Flies
Small shallow creeks & rivers up to 30 feet wide
3 - 4 weight
10 to 11 foot
trout 6" to 26 inches
Small weighted nymphs - size 6 to 22
Larger creeks & rivers up to 50 feet wide
8.5 to 9 foot
trout 6" to 26 inches
Dry fly fishing, wet fly fishing, streamer fishing, indicator & high-stick nymphing
Non-weighted small streamers, nymphs, dry flies, wet flies
Larger creeks & rivers up to 50 feet wide
trout 12" to 26 inches, Bass
Best for streamer fishing, indicator & high-stick nymphing.
Nymphs, dry flies, wet flies, streamers, small bass flies
Larger creeks & rivers up to 75 feet wide and deeper
For larger Trout 12" up to 30 inches, larger Bass, small Pike
Best for bigger streamers for Trout and Bass fishing, Nymphing on large rivers
Streamers, most bass flies
Small to large rivers and lakes
Pike, Bass, Large Trout, Carp
Best for big streamers for Trout and Bass fishing, Nymphing on large rivers
Streamers, bass flies, pike flies up to 7"
Small to large rivers and lakes
Best for Great Lakes Steelhead & Salmon
Nymphing with indicators and streamers
Steelhead rivers from 12 feet wide to 70 feet wide
Pike, Carp, Bass, Small Musky
Lakes and rivers of all sizes
Best rod for Great Lakes Salmon, & steelhead
West Coast Steelhead
Nymphing with indicators and streamers
Bigger steelhead and salmon rivers
Musky, large Pike, Carp,
Best for Streamer fishing
Lakes and rivers of all sizes
Ocean steelhead and salmon
Nymphing with indicators and streamers
Bigger Steelhead and salmon rivers
Musky, large Pike, Carp,
Best for Streamer fishing
Lakes and rivers of all sizes
Musky, ocean salmon
Nymphing with indicators and streamers
Lakes and rivers of all sizes
FLY ROD LENGHT
Longer rods in the 10 to 11 foot range are the new trend for anglers that primarily nymph fish on more open rivers. These longer rods aren’t as nice to cast dry flies with but it can be done.
If you do decide to get into a 10 or 11 foot nymphing rod I suggest dropping down a weight size to a 3 or 4 weight rod which would be suitable for most trout rivers.
I believe a good all around rod for dry fly, nymphing, streamer fishing and wet fly fishing for trout is a 9 foot 4 or 5 weight rod.
I also talk a little bit about steelhead fly rods but you can get more detailed information and recommendations on the Fishing For Steelhead Page
Fly Rods and Combo's
Beginner Rod Combo
I have used these on guide trips and in beginner fly fishing classes and for an economy rod for beginners it does a pretty good job. Also makes a good starter rod combo for kids. MORE . . . . .
To complete your setup add:
- 9 foot, 4X tapered leader – Scientific Anglers Leaders
- Fly Line Cleaner – Scientific Anglers Fly Fishing Line Dressing Cleaning Kit
Beginner & Intermediate Combo
I have guided with these rods and they feel and preform like rods that are twice the price.
For most trout rivers and all fishing methods this rod in the 9 foot 5 weight would be good. For smaller rivers and not much streamer fishing the 9 foot 4 weight might be a better choice. MORE . . . . .
To complete your setup add:
- Fly Line Cleaner – Scientific Anglers Fly Fishing Line Dressing Cleaning Kit
Best Economy Rod Under $200
One of the most highly rated economy rods for 2020. This rod has been highly reviewed on many review websites and would be good for any skill level. This is a fun rod to fish and might be the best rod I have tried under $200.00. It casts and feels like it should be priced closer to $500.00. MORE . . . . .
- 7 foot, 3 weight for very small creek fishing.
- 8 foot 4 weight for mostly dry fly fishing on small to mid-sized rivers.
- 10 foot, 3 weight for a euro nymphing rod
- 9 foot, 5 weight for a good all purpose trout rod.
Best Rod Under $300.00
I have been using Temple Fork rods for over 10 years and they were my best selling rods in my tackle store. The BVK are amazingly priced for such a high end rod. MORE . . . . .
- 8 foot, 3 weight for very small creek fishing.
- 8.6 foot 4 weight for mostly dry fly fishing on small to mid-sized rivers.
- 9 foot, 4 weight for a good all purpose trout rod.
- 10 foot, 7 weight or 8 weight is great for great lakes steelhead.
Recommended Rods Per Species
Sometimes guys ask me what rod would be the best if they want to fish for bass, pike and trout and maybe steelhead and salmon? That’s a tough question because there really is no “one good rod” for all species. However, if one rod was you’re only option at this time, then I would suggest getting a good 9 foot 6 weight rod. It’s slightly to heavy for brook trout and a bit to light for steelhead or salmon but you can make due with this rod until you decide to get the right gear.
- Brook Trout Specific Rod – Choose a 2 or 3 weight rod in the 6 to 8.5 foot range. Good for smaller creeks and smaller average sized fish.
- Brown Trout Specific Rod – Choose a 4 or 5 weight rod in the 8.5 or 9 foot range as a good general purpose rod for most rivers. Good for bigger and smaller fish on bigger water and for all methods of fly fishing, aka, dry fly, streamer, nymphing, and wet fly. If you do more streamer fishing than anything stick with the 5 weight.
- Brook and Brown Trout Combo – Not everyone wants a rod for each species so a good all around rod for multiple methods for river brown trout, brook trout and rainbows would be a 8.5 foot or 9 foot, 4 weight rod.
- Brown trout Streamer Rod – For small to medium sized rivers a 5 weight rod should do the job for for larger rivers and longer casts I would up size to a 6 weight rod.
- Brown Trout Nymphing Specific Rod – Choose a rod in the 10 to 11 foot range in a 2 or 3 or maybe a 4 weight size. If you go up to 11 feet, keep the rod in a 2 or 3 weight otherwise I find some 11 foot 4 weight rods just feel too heavy with the extra length. I use a 10 foot 4 weight very high end rod most of the time but high end rods tend to be much lighter. For the cheaper rods I go down to a 3 weight or even a 2 weight. The extra length allows better line control, and better tippet shock absorption and has better fish fighting ability so you can get away with a 2 or a 3 weight rod and still manage trout over 20 inches.
- Steelhead Specific Rod – A 10 foot, 7 weight rod is the perfect rod for 95% of Ontario and great lakes rivers that I have fished. On larger rivers where extra long casts are needed or there might be more wind, a 10 foot, 8 weight might be a better option. See Below for more . . .
- Salmon Specific Rod – A 10 foot 8 or 9 weight should be perfect for most Ontario and great lakes river salmon.
Guide Graham with one of thousands of hard fighting steelhead he has caught using a 10 foot 6 weight rod.
Lighter Rods? – I often recommend lighter rods than others would.
Many anglers and many shops often only consider the size of the fish when recommending rods but I normally think more about the size of the tippet (aka the weak link).
Think about it this way, most fly shops, and most anglers would recommend you buy an 8 weight rod for steelhead because it has more backbone and power to handle those big hard fighting steelhead.
In one way that makes sense but in my opinion, you will almost never be able to use all that backbone and power without breaking the light tippet that is often required when fishing for steelhead, and therefore all that backbone and power is wasted. Not to mention that now you’re wearing yourself out more because you’re fishing all day with a heavier rod than you need to.
Unless you’re fishing large wide open rivers that are windy and require long casts, there’s no reason to over size your rod.
MATCH THE ROD TO THE TIPPET
You’ve probably never heard someone say that before, it’s always match the rod to the size of the fish, but for me as a guide and angler, the choice is simply to match the rod to the tippet that is mostly being used, and not to the fish. If 30 pound salmon were so line shy that they would only bite if I used 4lb test, why would I need a 9 weight rod. I mean what good is a heavy 9 weight rod when I can only use 4 pound test.
The only exception is the size of the fly. A bigger fly casts better with a bigger rod, but if all you use in nymphs with 4 pound test why use a heavy rod. Using the wrong tippet could mean NO FISH. A heavier tippet might mean you’ll break off less fish and you’ll be able to land the fish faster, but it may also mean you’ll hook less fish or none at all if they are line shy which most trout and steelhead are. And because many trout and steelhead are line shy when using slow presentations like nymphing or dry fly fishing it’s even worse because the fly is moving so slow they have more time to inspect the fly and see the line.
A lighter tippet won’t be seen by the fish so you may have more fish bite, but the downside is that it takes longer to land the fish or you’ll break more off.
If I’m euro nymphing for big browns with 3lb tippet, why would I need a 5wt or 6wt rod that could easily handle 6lb or 8lb tippet? A 2wt or 3wt or 4 weight rod is all I need with 3 or 4 pound tippet even for big 26 inch brown trout.
So do you prefer to hook more fish and maybe break off an extra fish or two with very light tippet, or do you prefer to use a heavier tippet and hook less fish or none at all, but you’ll never break any off either?
Reels: Most reels in the $100 to $300 dollar range will do the job for trout fishing. For the average trout fishing in Ontario and other great lakes rivers you don’t really need a great drag system but the smoother the drag, the better. Even some $100 dollar reels with a disc drag should be sufficient for most trout fishing.
Reels come in weights the same way the fly rods do so match a 4 weight reel to a 4 weight rod and you should be good to go. Remember the reel will get a bit heavier once you add the fly line to it and you don’t want a big heavy reel on a light weight rod or vice versa.
For steelhead I’d recommend spending a little more money on a reel with a good smooth drag and one that is an enclosed or sealed disc drag system which will be an advantage since steelhead run fast and hard and a good drag will help you land more fish.
A sealed drag is also less likely to take on water and freeze up during the colder months. My favorite reel is the Hardy DD reel. See the Video here
There are fly reels out there known as click and pawl or click drag reels. These reels have little to no drag and require the angler to use their palm or fingers to apply pressure on the spool as the drag. Some really cheep fly rod combos use these reels but some more advanced anglers will also buy the more expensive ones to use. If you’re a beginner, you want to avoid these reels and get one with a disc drag.
Why? Simple, as a beginner there is so much going on in your head, from focusing on the cast, to the presentation of you fly and mending and even trying to just keep your balance on the rocks, so when you do get that big trout or steelhead on you want to focus on playing the fish and not have to worry about your drag.
A good disc drag will have a nice smooth steady drag so you can work on learning how to fight and manage big fish and let the drag just do it’s job. I have seen way to many anglers loose big fish on the click and pawl reels because they either apply to much pressure and break the fish off or they don’t apply enough pressure and fight the fish forever and then end up loosing it in the end.
They can be fun reels to fish with and they make it more challenging which is why some advanced guys like to use them, but I suggest waiting until you are good enough for that extra challenge.
THE FLY LINE
Fly Line: For most trout and steelhead fishing in Ontario a weight forward ( WF ) floating line will do the job. It’s rare for anglers in Ontario to use a sinking line unless they are swinging flies or fishing in a pond or lake.
And even if you do want to swing flies with a single hand rod you can always buy Airflo poly leaders or other sinking leaders which will do a similar job as a sinking line or sink tip line. Some lake anglers and some streamer anglers will prefer a full sinking line to get their flies down to the fish but for most river fishing situations a floating line is best.
There’s also a double taper line ( DT ) which I only recommend for guys that mostly dry fly fish or primarily roll cast.
When anglers ask me what lines I recommend I usually tell them that any good quality general purpose weight forward floating line should do. One thing I do stress is to get ones that are known for good floating ability because some of the cheaper lines don’t float well and a sinking line cause all kinds of problems.
When streamer fishing I do find that the Ridge Lines from Airflo company cast better in warmer weather then some other brands that I find can get sticky in the guides and in the hands.
Backing, Leaders and Tippets
Backing, Leaders and Tippet:
Backing – Most fly lines are about 90 feet long and that posses some potential problems. To start with, the trend of using large arbor reels to allow for faster up-take of the line when reeling in means 90 feet of line barely fills up the reel so we use backing to fill up the extra space on the reel so it’s as full as possible. The fuller the reel the faster the line comes in but be careful not to fill it to full.
The other reason for backing is that it acts as a safety net so we don’t get spooled by a huge fish that can easily pull out the full 90 feet on fly line. Should this happen and you don’t have the extra backing you could break off the fish or even loose your expensive fly line. Most reels will hold 50 yards or more of backing so I highly recommend it putting on the maximum amount before you add on the fly line and leader.
Tapered Leader – A tapered leader is a 7 to 11 foot piece of clear nylon or fluorocarbon line that you connect to the fly line on the end of the line that holds the fly. It is tapered so that it is thicker at the end that connects to the fly line and is thinner at the end near the fly. This aids in smoother casting, smoother presentation of the of the fly landing on the water.
I highly recommend a proper tapered leader over just tying on a straight piece of nylon or fluorocarbon. My preferred length of leader for most standard casting presentation is 9 feet. A standard leader for most fly fishing methods would be a 7 to 9 foot tapered leader in size 4X to 6X (6lb to 3lb).
In some cases like using a sinking fly line or when using the wet fly swing or streamer fishing methods you may want to use a fluorocarbon leader because the fluorocarbon sinks better which will get the fly down better and it’s more invisible under the water and more abrasions resistant. For dry fly fishing or indicator nymphing or any other method where you might want the upper part of the leader to be more buoyant you would want to use a regular nylon leader.
Tippet – A tippet is an end section or the tip of a leader and is sold as a separate spool from the main leader itself. You basically tie on a 12″ to 24″ section of tippet to the end of the leader. The tippet is not tapered. It is important to add tippet to the leader so you don’t chop into your tapered leader to much each time you tie on a new fly. If you keep cutting the tapered leader it will get shorter and thicker, so instead you tie the fly onto the tippet and only the tippet gets shorter.
For most trout, I used a tippet of 5X – 3lb but you can go bigger or smaller depending on the situation and method you’re using. For dry fly fishing you want to use nylon tippet since it tends to be more buoyant. For all methods where the fly goes below the surface I always use fluorocarbon tippet.
A tippet of 3X – 8lb ( 0.20mm) is my normal go to size for steelhead but if its really clear I’ll go down one size to 4X-6lb or if its wooded I may go up one size to 2X – 10lb.
Fluorocarbon Versus Monofilament or Copolymer Nylon- You may see these 3 labels listed on your leader and tippets. Without getting into the technical science of it, they are all simple made from a different material or process.
The basic advantage to fluorocarbon is that it goes more invisible below the water and it is less buoyant. It also has better knot strength and it much more abrasion resistant. This is great when fishing flies below the surface and around rocks and logs.
I used to tell anglers the reason the abrasion resistance is so important is because if you nick nylon 50% of the way through you’ll loose close to 80% of the line strength (10lb test is now 2lb test), but if you nick fluorocarbon 50% of the way through you still have 50% strength (1olb test is now 5lb test). Now these number aren’t exact, it’s only an example but I do know that even a small nick of the nylon line and it snaps easy so I only use nylon when I dry fly fish and there’s little chance of scrapping the line across the rocks like you would do nymphing deep all day.
Monofilament line tends to be more buoyant which may be better for dry fly fishing. Should your tippet keep sinking it may drag your floating fly down with it and that’s not a good thing so the more buoyant the better. Mono means single, and monofilament is often made from a single type of nylon.
Copolymer Nylon lines tend to be stronger, sometimes thinner and have stronger knot strength because they are made from multiple types of nylon. Many leader and tippets are now using copolymer instead of regular old monofilament.
Sizing System – As you have seen I have used the X sizing system which is often what is listed on the leader or tippet spools along with the pound test rating. 1 X is thicker than 6X in the rating system.
I’m not entirely sure why companies still use the X rating system or where it started but for most anglers, especially new anglers, it’s just confusing, especially since one companies 6X might be 3lb and another companies 6X might be 3.5lb. I’m hoping one day all companies will scrap the X rating system and just stick with the pound/kg test rating.
Fly fishing with nymphs or dry flies means the flies are moving slowly and the trout have lots of time to inspect the fly and that means they can be line shy. It’s important to use the right line for the fish and the conditions.
When choosing your tippet line, do not rely on the manufactures pound test rating because they are not always accurate. I only use the millimeter diameter for the most accurate indication of line strength and thickness.
As an example, the 3 line brands I will mention all have a 0.20mm diameter line. Frogg Hairs leader at 0.20mm line is listed as 8lb test on the label, Seaguars 0.20mm line is listed as 6lb test onthe label, and Drennans 0.20mm line is listed as 4lb test on the label. If you choose to use 4 pound Drennan for weary fish in gin clear water you probably won’t catch very many fish.
That was three lines, all with the same diameter and likely all the same pound test, but all 3 brands show different line strengths. How does one brand say they are 8lb test and the other says it’s 4lb test, yet they are the same diameter? In truth, one of those brands is labeling their line accurately and that could cost you fish.
Drennan is not true 4lb test, it’s closer to 8lb test if it’s 0.20mm, and I’d bet Seaguar is not true 6lb test either and is also closer to 8lb test. True 4lb test from good quality line should be around 0.15mm to 0.165mm, not 0.20mm which is likely 8lb test. I’m not saying I don;t like Drennan, I use it a lot and love it, I just know when they say 4lb it really more like 8lb and I catch a ton of steelhead on it each year. But if I use it for weary brown trout in gin clear water, I don’t catch very many.
So the next time you buy your line or go to tie on some new tipper, double check the diameter of the line to make sure you are getting the right one for your needs.
Here’s a basic guide:
- 3X – 8lb test is 0.20mm – Good for most great lakes steelhead fishing.
- 4X – 6lb test is o.175mm to 0.19mm – good for super clear water steelhead.
- 5X – 4lb test is 0.145mm – 0.17mm – Good for most trout fishing
- 6X – 3lb test – 0.12mm -0.14 – Good for advanced anglers for most trout fishing.
- 7X – 2lb test – 0.10mm – 0.11mm – Super light, only for advanced anglers or very small trout.
Another thing to remember is that not all brands are equal and testing shows some brands are better, stronger and thinner than others.
It doesn’t matter how strong your tippet is, if you use a weak knot you’re going to break off fish. Some knots weaken the line strength by over 50% so use a knot that is reliable, strong and tested by the pro’s.
Fly anglers need to know two types of knots, one to tie the fly on with, and another one to connect line to line.
These are a few strong knots that I use and that work with the small line diameters that are normally used in river fishing. Remember – With all your knots use water, saliva, chapstick or some type of lube before tightening up your not to prevent line friction burn which could drastically weaken you knot.
BEST FLY FISHING KNOTS
These are knots that I use and teach and recommend.With prctice they are fast and strong and mostly easy to tie.
Line to Fly Knots-
- Double Davy Knot – Good strong knot that I use more than any other not. It’s a small profile knot and is easy and fast to tie and if done right leave one of the smallest tag ends I’ve ever seen in a knot which means less waste and doesn’t shorten you tippet as quickly if you change flies a lot. See how to tie it HERE . . . .
- Improved Clinch Knot – A well known, easy to tie and very strong knot, I used this knot for many years and was my favorite until I learned the Double Davy knot. See how to tie it HERE . . . . .
- Trilene Knot – Easy to tie and very strong and is another knot that I have used and tested. See how to tie it HERE . . . . .
One of the strongest tested knots that I know of is the San Diego Jam knot. It’s harder to tie and uses up a little more material but if you want a super strong knot this is it.
Line to Line Knots – I tie line to line knots all the time so it’s important to know a couple of good ones.
- J-Knot – Best knot when tying on a new tippet to your leader or connecting two pieces of line. Works with similar or varying diameters like 4lb to 8lb. See it HERE . . . . .
- An easier alternative to the J-Knot is the triple surgeons knot which I have used for many years with no issues. See it HERE . . . . .
- Improved Blood Knot – Great for tying two pieces of line together but I only use this knot when the one end has a fly or spit shot on which makes passing the line through the loop on the J-Knot to difficult. See it HERE . . . . .
Another option for line to line connections is to use a tippet ring. See below.
Helping You Tie Your knots
If you have been out with me you’ve seen my use these. In fact I know quite a few guides that use these now. These magnifiers clip onto the visor of your hat and fold down to magnify the eye of the fly and that super thin line that seams to be nearly invisible sometimes.
It makes tying on your flies and all other knots much easier. For all those guys that keep asking me which ones I use it’s these ones from Orvis.
Other Useful and Must Have Fly Gear
Hemostat /Forceps: for safer and easier way to release large and small trout a good pair of hemostats will help get the hooks out of the fish with minimal damage when trying to release it. This video shows the type of forceps that I prefer and ones that can be found in most local fly shops. Forceps Video.
Nippers: a good set of nippers or nail clippers come in handy for cutting lines and tag ends of knots.
Fly Line Cleaner: A good fly line cleaner will help keep the line free of dirt and washes of bug repellent and will prolong the life of your fly line. Most fly line cleaners also help keep the line floating high which helps in mending and line pick up.
Indicators: Indicators are like little bobbers that can suspend your fly and let you know when a fish is biting. Indicator Nymph fishing is very popular. There are a few good indicators out there and everyone has their own preference. When teaching anglers how to indicator fish the guides at A Perfect Drift Guide Company uses bi-color indicators to teach anglers how to mend effectively and how to get a proper drag free drift. See below for my favorites.
Indicators like the Thingamabobbers are very popular and are perfect for many nymphing situations. Another indicator used by the guides for situations that require stealth is the Loon Bioglow which is a white or light yellow version of the Loon BioStrike putty indicator. The white color looks like the many bubbles floating on the surface so it’s less likely to spook a fish than a big bright orange indicator.
Tippet Rings – Tippet rings are super small rings that act as a connection point for the leader and tippet. The are so small they don’t effect the performance of your rig. The advantage of a tippet ring is that you can keep adding new tippet to your leader without ever cutting and shortening your the leader. This will extend the life of your leader. I have had leaders last a few years thanks to tippet rings.
Weights – You can use split shot weights or weighted putty to add weight to the leader to get your fly down to the fish. See my two preferred ones below. Under most situations I normally add the weigh to the line 12 to 20 inches up from the fly. If possible put the spilt shots about the leader tippet connection so they don’t slide down to the fly.
River Gear For All Methods Of Fishing
Waders and Boots: Waders and wading boots are an important part of a river anglers equipment.
Even on the hottest days I’ll still wear my waders and boots to protect my legs, ankles and feet from cuts and scraps from rocks, sticks and grasses and also to protect myself from poisonous plants and bug bites like ticks or mosquitoes.
My favorite style of waders are the breathable stocking foot waders and a matching boot. Breathable waders can be worn year round with reasonable comfort and the added boots provide superior ankle support for those rocky and uneven rivers.
Wading Jackets: Wading jackets are important for anglers fishing in wet and cold weather. My preferred wading jackets are breathable, waterproof, fit well and have See more on jackets HERE . . . . .
Vest and Packs: Call me old school but I still like my old fishing vests over the packs however with a bad back and me getting older I have found that the waist packs are far better on the back and shoulders after a long day on the water.
The choice is usually up to the individual but they both do the same thing and that is to hold all your odds and ends that you might need for a day of fishing on the river and keep you hands free which means no carrying tackle boxes through the bush over the rocks and up and down the hills. See more on Vest and Packs HERE . . . . .
Polarized Glasses – These are must have both for eye protection and for reading the water. I could not guide of fish as well as I do without them. See more on glasses HERE . . . . .
Nets – All river anglers should have a net to help land that once in a lifetime trophy and to safely handle the fish. Even all the pro’s use nets so don’t find yourself without one when you need it the most. See more on nets HERE . . . . .
Flies and Boxes
There are books with over 1000 fly patterns and I’m sure there are 10,000 more patterns in the world. My advise to anglers starting out is to go to all the local guides websites, the local tackle shop websites, local websites like this one and see if they are talking about or recommending flies for your area.
You can also look up local hatch charts and then go to websites that sell flies and find ones that match you areas hatches.
Impressionistic flies – Flies that look as close to the real thing can be great and might be required to get those picky fish to eat. You can see an example of look-a-like fly that I tied in the picture. They don’t have to be exact, just a close match on the size, shape and color should do the job.
Attractor Patterns – I don’t know how many times I’ve changed flies 10 times looking for the best natural patterns that imitate the hatches and then put on some crazy flashy fly that ends up catching all the fish. I tell guide clients that fish are curious creatures.
If something comes drifting past them and it’s at the right speed, right depth and the right size but looks odd, they often wonder if it’s edible and will put it in their mouth to sample it.
That’s where attractor patterns can be effective. Attactor patterns don’t really look like the natural insects the fish are used to eating. Here is a link to some attractor flies to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Notice the Orange Asher, I started using bright orange flies 25 years ago after I noticed some fish rising up to eat my bright orange indicator. Some days a bright orange caddis pattern or orange mayfly pattern will catch all the fish for me. Other days I’ll use a silver shiny nymph and catch more fish than any other fly. One of my favorite brook trout flies is a royal coachman dry fly and it doesn’t look like any insect on any river I have ever fished.
Dry Flies – A dry fly is a fly that float on the surface only
Nymphs – A nymph is a flies fished below the surface to resemble underwater insects.
Wet Flies – A wet fly is like a nymph but is fished with a tight line and swung from one side of the river to the other.
Streamer Flies – These resemble a fish or other animal that is moving.
BEST WEBSITES FOR BUYING FLIES
I tie 99% percent of my flies but on occasion I get really busy with guiding and with my young kids so it’s sometimes easier if I just buy flies. Many of the large discount fly retailers use flies tied oversees, often in Kenya and depending on which supplier they get the flies from some of these flies will fall apart quickly. They use cheap quality hooks and cheap glues to hold the flies together. I’m always cautious when I buy from a new supplier and usually buy a small amount to test them before I buy a large quantity. However, there are some good suppliers that use local tiers and they have much better quality flies. I use these fly suppliers with confidence. The two suppliers I get flies from are The Fly Fiend and Reel Flies.
The Fly Fiend uses the highest quality materials, modern and traditions patterns and his flies are as close to and sometimes better than what I tie. The drawback is that he is more expensive than the discount fly supplies. NOTE: Some bead head nymphs are tied with brass beads which are light and primarily for show and they are cheap and others are tied with tungsten beads which is the heaviest material for beads but it’s also 4 or 5 times the price. This makes Tungsten flies much more expensive. The Fly Fiends bead-head flies are usually Tungsten which is mostly what I use. A bonus of The Fly Fiend is that he also does tutorial videos on YouTube for those angler that want to learn how to tie.
Reel Flies has a huge selection of flies and I have purchased bass flies and dry flies from them when I’m to busy or to lazy to tie my own. They are more of a discount fly shop but I have heard they use local tiers and they still have higher quality flies than the really cheap supplies. I know of many clients that are happy with their flies and therefore I would recommend them.
The Best Fly Boxes
You might think fly boxes is a no-brainer and that you don’t really need advice on them because all they do is just hold your flies. But let me tell you that you will likely change your mind about that the first time you fall in the river and fully submerge your box and a week later 300 of your flies are all rusted. Or maybe the first time you open your box and a big gust of wind blows 2o of your smallest dry flies out and into the river you, 0r maybe you open that box up with your fish slimmed fingers and then drop it and 100 flies end up at the bottom of the river deeper than your arms can reach. Trust me, those things happen and it sucks, and that’s why the right fly box can be important.
TIPS FOR BUYING FLY BOXES
Here are some fly box tips:
- Use a box with hook slots to hold each fly in place.
- Get a sealed box so if you drop it, if it rains, or if your pocket or pack gets full of water for some reason, then your flies will stay dry and wont rust.
- A good dry-fly box should have groves or an open space so the hackles on the bottom won’t get permanently bent out of shape.
- Some boxes have any inner swing-leaf so they can carry more flies but these can crush down and permanently bend and ruin the hackles on your dry flies, so avoid these.
- Get the right size. Just because a box says it will hold 480 flies doesn’t mean it actually will. It may have 480 slots for flies but many flies will take up two slots because they are to either too long or too wide. It’s better to get a box that holds 600 flies when you only own 300 flies, than it is to get a box that holds 300 flies and you have to jam them all in. It’s often better to have them spaced out in every 2nd slot so you are less likely to knock some out, plus it’s easier to add and remove the flies and you’re less likely to damage the flies if you don’t have to jam them in.
FishUSA New Phase Double-Sided Waterproof Fly Box – Some anglers prefer see through boxes especially if the carry multiple boxes. This come in a few sizes. My word of caution is that they scratch and become cloudy so keep them in a separate pocket from other boxes and other gear. MORE . . . . .
Fly Fishing Education
There’s a lot of ways to learn the art of fly fishing. I think one of the best ways is to find someone to teach you. If you don’t have a buddy, you could try one of the local fly fishing clubs where you can meet people to fish with, or consider hiring a good guide. Even though I’m a top guide I still hire other guides in other areas.
I research long and hard to find the best of the best and then tell them I don’t even care about catching fish, I just want them to teach me something new or different. I realized long ago that other guides do things different than I do,maybe better and maybe not, but either way with a really good guide I know there is always something I can learn.
I recently learned a new trick from a client who went out with a guide in New York state. I was able to use that trick not as it was intended, which was to aid in strike detection, but instead I use it to help some of my new clients gauge the depth of their flies better and to help keep them off the bottom and it works great and now I use it a lot. After 35 years of fly fishing and 20 years of guiding and I’m still learning and improving which benefits me and my clients. A good guide can be your best investment if you want to learn how to catch more fish fast.
There’s also the internet, however, I’ve seen some really bad advice from so-called experts so be careful what you read and from who. I recently read an article about Euro-Nymphing from a guy that has his own website and comes across as an expert at this style of fishing. Although he got a lot of things right, he then proceeded to tell his readers they needed to pull the fly faster than the current which is totally wrong under almost all situations. Unfortunately, many people will read that and start pulling their flies and all they will catch is small fish.
I spent days training with world-class competition anglers and the head coach of the USA fly fishing team and they rarely pull their flies, and neither would I because I understand all the reasons why you shouldn’t do this. This is the kind of bad advice you need to be cautious of, but how would you or anyone who is a beginner know if it’s right or wrong? My advice is to be sure the person writing the article is a pro, and not some guy with a blog who’s probably still trying to figure things out himself.
Books and videos by experts are another good way to help you improve, most of the time these are reliable sources of information written by reliable people.
The Best Books For Nymphing And Streamers
Dynamic Nymphing : This is buy far the best nymphing book I’ve ever read. It focuses on modern methods for catching more trout below the surface. These methods are very effective on Ontario trout and steelhead rivers and if perfected will surely help you catch way more fish. A Perfect Drift Guide Company is one of the only full time independent guide services that use these methods and have classes teaching anglers the proper ways to use these methods on Ontario rivers.
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Best Streamer Book
Strip – Set : This is another great book by George Daniel on the art of streamer fishing. Streamer fishing is catching on with it’s fast pace and exciting strikes from large trout. These methods work well in Ontario rivers and can produce some the largest trout when nothing else will. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this great book.
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Competition Style Nymphing Book
Devin Olsen explains how the techniques he has used to become a repeat medalist in fly fishing competitions around the world can be adapted to everyday fly fishing situations. He covers strategies, tactics, and flies for rivers, small streams, and still waters, allowing anyone to fish more successfully by applying the approaches taken by competitive anglers.
Best Nymphing Video
Modern Nymphing DVD : Anyone who knows me knows that this style of fishing is my favorite because of how effective it is. If you’re looking for the most productive styles of nymphing for Ontario trout and steelhead this is a great way to learn. A Perfect Drift Guide Company teaches these methods to Ontario Trout and Steelhead anglers.
Click the Shop Button Link for more details.
Top Guides In Ontario
I have had anglers tell me that before they went out with me they would usually only catch a half dozen trout a day and maybe 1 or 2 big ones a year, but after a single guide trip with me they now average 30 trout a day and hook a big one almost every day on the water.
My specialty is nymphing and streamer fishing because I like catching big fish consistently and those are by far the best ways. I do all methods but there are other guide out there that may be better at certain method like Spey fishing because they do it more often and have mastered it.
A $400 investment with a really good guide lasts a lifetime and can increase you learning curve and bring you to the next level fast regardless of your current skill level.
As guide who has guided probably close to 3000 clients I have heard so many stories about other guides, some good and some bad. There are good guides and unfortunately there are bad guides out there. In Ontario a guide doesn’t require a guide license, or any training. Any angler with a Facebook page can start guiding, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be any good.
HIRING THE RIGHT GUIDE
That is why I highly recommend you do your homework before you decide to hire any guide and don’t think that just because you hire a guide through a reputable fly shop that you don’t have to worry, because often, the worst guides that I have seen where from the local shops.
The local shop usually have a head guide or two that handles most of the volume and then a few guides that they can call on when their top guides are busy. You pay the same price for the shops veteran and best guide as you do the newbie or their once a week part time guide. It’s your money and your time so make sure you demand the best guide and that you get what you pay for, even if you have to wait. I almost never recommend to contact a fly shop to get a guide because I’m not confidant you will get a good guide.
99% of the time I’m more likely to recommend an independent full time guide who has a great reputation because this is his business and is how he makes his living, and I know he is the most likely guide to put in the extra effort to maintain his reputation and to gain repeat business so that he can stay busy and stay in business. Independent guides have a lot more to loose than the guy working for the fly shop.
I have said before that reputation means more than anything if you want to be a top independent guide, and that you get what you pay for with an indi-guide. Saving $50 or 100 bucks by going with a cheaper independent guide may be a bad choice. If a guide is charging $100 bucks less there’s probably a reason for it, and it’s probably not good.
How to find the best guides – An easy way to tell if a guide is good is to look at his pictures on his website or his social media pages. If 80% or more of his pictures are of him and his buddies holding all the fish then he’s either new or not guiding much and I would move on to the next guide.
If 80% or more of the pictures are of his happy clients, that’s a good thing. Also look for testimonials and referrals. If you go to local websites forums in your area and you ask the guys who they recommend as a guide you will quickly see who you should consider. The best guides will have happy clients that will be very willing to recommend them.
Ontario Fly Fishing Clubs
Fly Fishing Clubs: There are also a number of good fly fishing clubs in Ontario and some of these clubs help with conservation projects and help protect our rivers. They are a great source of information and a good way to make friends who share the same interests that you do. One thing I know about these clubs is the guys like to talk, so you may learn a few sweet spots to try among other things.
Izaak Walton Fly fishing Club – A great group of anglers specializing in teaching the sport of fly fishing and working to maintain good fishing on the credit and nearby rivers. They are located in Mississauga and hold monthly meeting. They are knowledgeable and readily share information with new anglers. They also put on the annual Canadian Fly Fisher Forum so check out their website for more details.
Friends of the Grand – Many thanks to this group for their on-going efforts to make the Grand River trout fishery so good. A great group of guys with vast knowledge of fly fishing the grand river and a great source of information for new anglers. They also host the annual Grand Opportunities fly fishing event. Check their website for more details.
Headwaters Fly Fishing Club– This is a group of fly fishing and fly tying enthusiasts who meet monthly in the headwaters area. They’re surrounded by the headwaters of the Nottawasaga, Humber and Credit rivers and are a 15 minutes drive from Orangeville and Bolton. They share their experiences, learn new skills and techniques and participate in environmental activities. They are a great club for anyone wanting to learn more and meet new friends.
Winter Hatches Fly Fishing Club – This friendly group of conservation minded fly anglers hold their meetings in the Toronto area. They welcome all new comers to their meetings and fly tying classes. They are a wealth of information and a great way for new and veteran anglers to meet new friends.
KW Fly Fishers – This club is in the Kitchener Waterloo area it’s members range in experience from complete novices to professional guides. Whatever your level of expertise, they will help you improve your fly fishing and tying skills and are always welcoming new members.
Forest City Fly Fishing Club – A great group of anglers from the London area with tying lessons, guest speakers, and presentations available to their members.
Hamilton Area Fly Fishers – A group of dedicated conservation minded fly fishers promoting and teaching fly fishing to anglers of all ages. Learn cold water and warm water fly fishing techniques during their meetings or attend one of their event outings.
Pine Ridge Fly Fishing Club – The Pineridge Fly Fishing Clubs members have interests in the Kawartha’s and the north shore of Lake Ontario. They have combined the interests of both cold and warm water fly fishing. They are a friendly group and invite all fly anglers to come out and take part in one of their meetings.
Cold Creek Fly Fishers – Cold Creek Fly Fishers club is a long standing organization which has been looking after one of Ontario’s best trout fisheries since 1976. They are a group of river keepers as well as fly fishing and fly tying enthusiasts. Cold Creek Fly Fishers members have private stream access thanks to their stream monitoring and conservation efforts on the river. They have regular meetings and would be a benefit to fly anglers of the area.
Glenn Haffy Fly fishing Club: Located in the headwaters area between Orangeville and Bolton. These are private stocked ponds with resident brook trout and stocked rainbow trout.
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